Reid wants to ‘wait and see’ on Iran sanctions

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out” before moving forward on new Iran sanctions legislation.

Reid declined to say when he might bring the bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, to a vote.

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“While [the negotiations] are going on and while the legislative process is working forward here, I'm going to sit and be as fair an umpire as I can be,” Reid said.

The majority leader noted that 10 of his Democratic committee chairmen are opposed to the bill, which is sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

“There's 10 senators who — chairmen of committees here — have said they don't want anything done," he said. "We have now ... more than 55 are co-sponsoring this. So we're going to wait and see how this plays out.”

Reid made the comments as President Obama and the White House are pressuring Congress to hold off on any new sanctions measure while negotiations are underway between Iran and the six world powers on a permanent nuclear deal.

The Menendez-Kirk bill would implement new sanctions on Iran should Tehran violate the interim agreement or walk away from the negotiations.

Obama has threatened to veto any sanctions legislation, warning it would kill the diplomatic process. He said that the implementation of the six-month deal finalized this weekend gives the two sides the “time and space” needed for a longstanding agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, called Tuesday for Reid to hold a vote on the Iran bill.

“We know there is a bipartisan majority for new Iran sanctions bill by Sen. Kirk and Chairman Menendez, a majority that quite possibly could overturn the veto,” McConnell said. “We believe we ought to have that vote. We're going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the support of a very large bipartisan majority here in the Senate."

Of the 59 co-sponsors, 16 are Democrats. But one of the Democratic co-sponsors said Tuesday he didn’t think a vote was needed on the bill if the negotiations were making progress.

“As long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.

— Kristina Wong contributed.